Rivals building the great Australian dream

A new national approach to housing could see the federal government’s attention expand beyond first-time homebuyers to renters, older Australians and women and children in need of emergency shelter.

Rising house prices have put Australia’s great dream of home ownership beyond the reach of more households, and any offer of help wins in election campaigns – and not just for the buyers.

Housing Industry Association director Graham Wolfe said more than a million people work in residential construction across Australia every day, so it makes sense to make housing supply a national priority.

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“It will support individuals, businesses and the Australian economy over the year ahead,” he said.

Under the ‘shopping aid’ scheme announced by Labor over the weekend, single contestants can win up to $90,000 and couples up to $120,000, with prize caps properties ranging from $950,000 in Sydney to $400,000 in WA, SA and Tasmania.

Some 10,000 low- and middle-income home buyers a year could enter the market, with the government owning up to 40% of the home or unit.

Tenants would have a say in a national plan on housing and homelessness developed by a new National Housing Supply and Affordability Council.

The successful deposit guarantee scheme introduced by the coalition government, and extended in the last budget to 50,000 applicants a year, would continue if the Labor Party were elected.

The National Housing Finance Investment Corporation, working with Australian banks, has approved $2.9 billion in loans and saved more than 57,000 buyers more than $420 million in interest payments up to here.

Denita Wawn, CEO of Master Builders Australia, said Labour’s housing plan “puts in place the building blocks needed to address housing challenges” on supply and demand.

“Our members tell us that supply issues, which are the responsibility of states and territories, need leadership from the federal government,” she said.

Property Council chief executive Ken Morrison said Labor’s shared share ownership scheme is ‘unlikely to distort markets or housing prices’ as it is capped at 10,000 places a year.

Homebuyers would also avoid having to pay expensive mortgage insurance from lenders.

But the industry wants to see the fine print of the Labor Party’s plan to double foreign investment screening fees and financial penalties from July this year to pay for it.

If elected, increased emergency funding of $100 million would also be part of the policy mix.

“What we are doing is trying to create a situation where everyone can have the opportunity to have a secure roof over their head,” Labor leader Anthony Albanese said on Monday.

Leading organizations representing poorer households and community housing endorsed the proposals.

Emma Greenhalgh, CEO of National Shelter, said it would help people looking to move back into the property after being evicted.

“It is essential, especially for older women, who face housing problems following family separation,” she said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Coalition was helping Australians buy their own homes, without the government making money by taking a stake.

There is also First Home SuperSaver to save a deposit at lower tax rates through superannuation.

HomeBuilder has supported builders and renovators during the pandemic, although the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute says in new research it has driven up prices and created construction bottlenecks.

Meanwhile, investment in student accommodation is returning with the reopening of international borders.

“Students are back and so is interest in the places they live,” said Ray White Group chief economist Nerida Conisbee.

Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund recently spent $568 million to buy a portfolio of Australian student accommodation.

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